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The biggest win for renewable energy this decade

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The world now gets 22% of its power from renewable sources – wind, sun, geothermal energy, biomass, water, etc. One of the remaining bottlenecks is the cost to store the energy. But that might just change, according to a new report this week.

Power is produced when the sun shines, the wind blows, or the water flows. Storing that power in batteries helps us save it for later. Various storage technologies exist, but most of them are still quite expensive.

A report this week a paper by UBS was released: “Will solar, batteries and electric cars re-shape the electricity system?

It showed something new: Battery prices could go down by 50% in the next decade. As my colleague and energy expert Jean-Philippe Denruyter explains, “it would revolutionize at least three parts of the power sector.”

As Jean-Philippe explains, here is what it could change in a big way:

1. How we move: It would made electrified transport cheaper making electric cars and other vehicles more affordable for cities and individuals.

2. How we use power: Providing power to people usually happens through an interconnected power grid. If a home or building is connected to a grid, and it puts solar panels on its roof, it injects excess solar electricity on the grid and takes electricity from the grid when the solar system does not produce enough. This causes some variability on the grid.

Battery systems could store some energy and smoothen electricity grid injections and offtakes to support the grid. Lower battery prices would mean more homes and buildings could contribute to making grids both more stable and cleaner, if that solar power is used instead of a polluting source like coal.

3. How we build new power: Many regions in the world do not have a stable power grid, or are not connected to a power grid at all. In these places, solar power systems are cheaper than diesel power, but it is still expensive because of the high cost of batteries. With lower battery prices, a more accessible market for off-grid solar power could emerge.

Something as simple as a cheaper battery could change lives around the world.

And in a world where 1.3 billion people do not have access to energy, filling that gap must be done in the most sustainable and clean way possible as to not further increase the intensity of climate change.

So how do we reduce the cost of renewable energy technology like batteries?

A large part of the answer lies in where investments go into the energy sector. Direct investments in renewable energy infrastructure, like storage, will help enable renewable power to grow. Both renewable energy and energy efficiency will help transition the world away from power from coal, oil and gas – a transition essential to acting on climate change.

The next big chance for change is in three weeks.

Governments and financial institutions will come together in three weeks in New York for a UN Climate Summit, hosted by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Here, they are expected to make announcements on climate change action, including increased investments to renewable energy.

WWF calls on governments and financial institutions to raise investments in renewable energy, and phase-out those in fossil fuels to help safeguard the future of the natural world.

Join WWF in this global call to action.

Zoe Caron is the co-author of Global Warming for Dummies and a senior campaigner for WWF’s global investment campaign Seize Your Power.

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